As a landowner looking to make a profit from your asset, you’re probably asking yourself the question, ‘how long does a planning application take?’
Usually, the entire process, from validation to determination, should take eight weeks. But, with larger or more complicated proposals, gaining planning permission can take up to 13 weeks.
While these two time frames are well established working guides, it’s important to stress that these are minimums and many planning applications can take a lot longer to determine.
Under the government’s Planning Guarantee, no application should take longer than a year to determine, including a potential appeal if no extensions have been agreed.
The planning permission application process
To understand these time scales more practically and gauge where potential planning application delays might crop up, it pays to know the various stages of the application process—which are as follows:
Planning application preparation
Although not officially part of the planning application examination process, preparing your application for submission is something that requires great care and consideration.
The time scales here vary depending on a number of variables (some districts, for example, don’t like applicants to send surveys post-submission or determination), but usually take between one to four months depending on the size of the project or type of application (outline or full planning permission, for instance).
Submission & validation: four to six weeks
The next stage of the planning permission application process comes in the form of submission and validation.
If you’ve carried out your preparations diligently and you’ve gathered all of the information or documents required, submitting your application through the official online Planning Portal should be relatively easy.
This part of the process typically takes around one month, usually because you have to wait for the council to validate your application.
COVID-19 has delayed the validation process to some extent—so to make sure there are no unnecessary planning application delays, you must check all of the validation requirements before submission. If you fail to meet them, your application will suffer huge delays.
Determination: 13 weeks or more
Once your application is validated, it will be pushed forward to the determination phase.
Usually, determination takes around eight weeks for smaller projects and 13 weeks for a slighter bigger or more complex application.
During this process, councils have to process documents, examine every aspect of your application in detail, and await comments from any statutory consultees including Highways England, ecological officers, residents or local parish councils.
Sometimes, determination can exceed 13 weeks as the local authorities may require further information to reach a final decision.
If the local authority needs more information or is awaiting a consultation response, it may request a formal extension on determination time. On the other hand, you can request an extension if you feel extra time is needed to finalise your application.
The decision: 16 weeks to one year
If you receive a planning permission refusal—basically, you didn’t get the decision you wanted—you can resubmit or appeal.
If you want to go down the route of a free second go, you need to resubmit your application within a year from the date of planning permission refusal. To qualify as a free resubmission, the application has to be similar to the original, with the additional requirements met to deem it successful.
It’s important to remember that if you are resubmitting, some documents have an expiry date (ecological reports or surveys, for example), so it’s always worth checking the validity of everything before reapplying through the portal.
You can make a formal appeal if you’ve received planning refusal but depending on the complexity of the case, the process can prove costly and time-consuming.
Written representations and hearings are usually fairly swift but if your appeal requires a public inquiry, the process can stretch on for much longer, usually months.
If you make a full appeal and you’re still unhappy with the outcome, you can escalate your case to the High Court, but of course, this will make the entire appeals processes significantly longer.
How to avoid planning application delays
When asking yourself ‘how long does a planning application take?’, it’s important to understand how to avoid unnecessary delays.
First and foremost, you should get land and planning experts on board from the outset as they will be able to streamline the process, make sure you meet any validation requirements straight off the bat, and help you navigate any potential roadblocks early on.
Another important approach to take when it comes to avoiding planning application delays is liaising with your local council before you start the process.
You can request a pre-app which is essentially concrete application advice from the council that will help you iron out any possible problematic or technical details before you start the process, in turn, making the validation to determination phase of the application quicker.
If your scheme qualifies from an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), you should aim to screen out the issues beforehand to understand the elements that don’t need to be considered—an advisable approach when you consider that an EIA can take up to 16 weeks to determine (12 further weeks if you require a reconsultation).
Another way of fast-tracking your planning permission application is by talking to neighbours and the local parish council early to get them onboard with your scheme and avoid any conflicts or objections that could delay your application further down the line.
Once your application is submitted, it’s always good practice to check-in with any updates or comments from local consultees and discover whether there are any objections to the scheme so that you can put in the additional work early and avoid unwanted extensions or delays.
Planning permission can be a tricky business, but if you’re a landowner looking to make the planning application process as smooth and successful as possible, we can help.
Contact us to discuss your plans or situation and our experienced team of experts will be happy to guide you through every stage of the process.